Nations vary greatly in their approach to criminal law and justice practices. The way prisoners are treated and who is put in jail reveals much about a country’s attitude towards its inhabitants.
Throughout the world the over-use of imprisonment is causing overcrowded prisons with inhumane, degrading and dangerous conditions, impacting mental and physical health and the safety of prisoners and staff alike. …
If the purpose of punishment and detention is to reduce crime, boost rehabilitation and cut re-offending, then few people really believe that the prison-based model of justice works. Prison is simply not an effective way to reduce crime, and many claim that it only enhances criminal identity and connections. For inmates who suffer from drug addiction or mental illness, being in custody certainly does not help. Imprisonment also destabilizes family life and often leads to the loss of job, home and social relations.
The changing views on correctional facilities have led several countries to adopt a less punitive approach and to treat detainees with greater humanity, seeing that a more humane approach has a big impact on how these people will behave when returning to society.
In Europe, the Netherlands is one of the countries with the lowest incarceration rate, at 60 per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the imprisonment rate in the UK is 131 per 100,000, and in the United States it is 629 per 100,000, the highest rate in the world.
The changes in criminal policy in the Netherlands have resulted in offenders being much less likely to receive a prison sentence, as the tendency is to avoid jailing people unless it is necessary. Fines or community service are more common, as well as court-ordered mediation. If prison sentences are given, they are mostly kept very short. Soft drug use and sex work have been decriminalized.
Half of the people in Dutch prisons have received a one-month sentence, and there is an increased use of alternatives to imprisonment, such as electronic tagging. There is much investment in youth intervention schemes, and, for offenders who do end up in prison, personalized intervention programs which focus on the individuals’ strengths, talents and possibilities. These are aimed at helping people to access the skills and networks they need in order to rebuild their lives and break the re-offending cycle. Prisons are also generally of a much higher standard and better staffed than in most other countries.
For convicts with mental health problems and drug addictions, a special psychological rehabilitation programme known as TBS is part of the criminal justice system. The aim is to prevent another crime and to address the psychological conditions and the social problems that follow. These detainees, who have complex and difficult backgrounds, stay in treatment centres where they receive specialist help to work on themselves in order to become able to re-enter society. …